Zillow purges illegal Chicago rental service ads

by Joe Zekas on 1/3/13

We can find many things to criticize about Zillow Rentals, and we’ve already focused on one of them – misleading descriptions of who renters are contacting in response to an ad. We’ll post some additional criticisms in the coming days.

In the meantime, we’d like to compliment Zillow for its prompt and effective response to our having flagged illegal ads placed by rental services for supporters of the Craigslist Apartment Cleanup. Yesterday morning’s email brought a flurry of responses like this one from Zillow:

Thank you for reporting the fraudulent [sic] listing on Zillow. We appreciate you letting us know. We have removed the posting from Zillow.

Here is our FAQ on rental and internet scams.

Regards,

Zillow Customer Care

We also flagged scores of ads at Trulia and received auto-responder emails promising followup, but have yet to see the followup.

The screen cap, above, of a rental service ad illustrates some of the standard bait-and-switch bag of rental service tricks. The lowest-priced one-bedroom currently offered at the Belden-Stratford rents for $1,515 and the lowest-priced studio for $1,815. There’s nothing close to the $1,175 advertised price – and no Unit 1704 in the 16-story building.

If you’re a landlord or property manager and you see an unauthorized ad for one of your properties on Zillow, click the Report Listing button in the ad and fill in the simple form. It appears that Zillow will follow through and remove the ad.

If you’re a renter and you spot a rental service ad for a supporter of the Craigslist Apartment Cleanup, we encourage you to report the unauthorized ad to Zillow. We aren’t able to flag all of them ourselves, and we’re sorry to say that notifying rental services that their ads may be illegal doesn’t stop them from reposting. Here’s a response we received from Rent Proactive, the charter member of our dirtiest dozen rental services, to an email re Craigslist ads for a property that does not authorize ads:

Joe,

Thank you. We will have this removed and contact [name redacted]. We love what your [sic ] doing and support your efforts. About time someone made a difference.

Happy Holidays,

Support Team

The ads were not removed, and Rent Proactive continued to post new ones for the same property at Craigslist at least three times a day in the four days since their tongue-in-cheek “support.” We love getting this kind of email – and we’re confident the state licensing authorities will enjoy reading it.

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